Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.

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VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Enabling activities - Livelihoods
Strategic Planning - Livelihoods
Livelihood projects definition

Livelihood projects definition


Environmental factors causing/contributing to the needs and affecting the humanitarian activity

Climate change and environmental degradation are driving an escalating number of disasters and vulnerability. This requires radical change across all sectors and systems. For the humanitarian sector, mandated with saving lives and reducing suffering, examining and mitigating its own footprint on the environment should be a clear priority, together with ensuring all of its activities are environmentally sustainable and building communities’ resilience to environmental hazards and disasters.

Integrating environmental sustainability into project planning helps sustainably restore societal functions, services, and the environment they live in. If undertaken with environmental sustainability in mind, recovery and reconstruction can help reduce disaster risk and vulnerability to future hazards and support climate change adaptation. The planning process also provides a good opportunity to address the environmental impacts of humanitarian response operations, which helps to ensure that both communities and the environment can recover in a sustainable way.

Poor urban households frequently live in highly polluted environments where a lack of clean water, sanitation, drainage, and solid-waste disposal services contribute to contamination of water and food, inadequate levels of hygiene, and exposure to vector-borne diseases such as malaria. All of these factors contribute to family wellbeing, income, and impact on livelihoods.

Promoting good environmental stewardship contributes to social and economic benefits.

To adequately protect agricultural livelihoods and enhance Food and Nutrition Security (FNS), it is critical to reduce the underlying drivers of the risks affecting farmers, pastoralists, fishers, and foresters.

The negative impact of natural hazards and other threats to FNS can be effectively reduced, mitigated, or prevented through investment in sustainable models of food production and the application of appropriate agricultural technologies and practices, which raise yields and increase resilience against production failure.

Examples include better management of crop species and varieties, the promotion of crop, livestock, and fish varieties that are more resilient to stress (floods, droughts, or saline conditions), plant breeding to develop new adaptive and productive varieties, development of efficient seed delivery systems, and resilient animal breeding, fodder conservation, or conservation agriculture.

Given the strong dependency and interconnectedness of natural resources, the environment, natural hazards, and food security, it is necessary to apply an ecosystem approach and to address the underlying drivers of risk and vulnerability by integrating sustainable environmental and natural resource management practices into DRR efforts that seek to make livelihoods more resilient.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Additionally, the stakeholder analysis should explore ways to equitably share the natural resource capital assets, with particular attention paid to the poorest and most disadvantaged groups and to women, to make sure their needs are met.

The analysis should also consider that men and women use and/or have access to different resources. For example, women are often responsible for firewood and wild food plant collection and men often undertake hunting and logging. Both men and women may fish, but they often catch different fish species in different places with different techniques.

Targeting women as income providers; and promoting joint household decision-making in income use. This will reduce coping strategies at the expense of environmental preservation.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Climate Change
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource Depletion
Soil erosion
Noise pollution
Visual Intrusion
Cultural acceptance
Impact on mental health

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Key concerns from overlooking environmental sustainability whilst defining nutrition projects include:

Potentially increased vulnerability to environmental hazards

Diminished provisioning capacity of local ecosystems

Public health risks from pollution from waste

Unsustainable Nutrition activities, exacerbating existing or creating new environmental impacts

Loss of natural resources and biodiversity impeding recovery and diminishing community resilience

Deforestation, and water and soil degradation.

Environmental impacts undermine the short- and long-term effectiveness and sustainability of Livelihood programming outcomes and can exacerbate existing or introduce new environmental challenges. This can also lead to a loss of livelihoods and biodiversity, impede future recovery efforts as well as diminish community resilience.

Providing free inputs can also disrupt traditional social support, compromise redistribution mechanisms or affect private sector operators. This can create tensions and reduce future access to inputs

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Deforestation, and water and soil degradation effects as a consequence of responses that do not consider environmental measures

Responses should protect and support food security while limiting negative environmental impacts. Response actions that do not consider the environment will risk the sustainability of the implementation because as in a loop, environmental degradation can cause livelihood insecurity, and livelihood insecurity can lead to environmental degradation. For example, an intervention that considers firewood collection for producing traditional charcoal makes it possible for the people to cook food and generate income from its sale. However, it can also result in deforestation, soil erosion and increases the risk for flooding. Similarly, some coping strategies, such as the sale of land, migration of whole families, or deforestation, may permanently undermine future livelihood.

For example, global and national modeling studies suggest that yields of major cereals will decline under scenarios of increased temperature, especially in tropical countries. Water scarcity threatens the ability of large parts of the world to continue its present agricultural growth, and agricultural land is increasingly in conflict with infrastructure development and with protected areas.


Summary of environmental activities

Include environmental considerations in objectives, outcomes, and activities to ensure they are addressed throughout the response.

Ensure that the project conforms to the principles of the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework and the Ecosystem Approach. Ensure project activities conform to better management practices or sector-specific guidelines. Support community in their own livelihoods mapping and livelihoods gap analysis.

Develop environmental indicators or include environmental elements in humanitarian sector or project indicators. Ensure that the project operates within the carrying capacity of the natural ecosystems.

Engage local (and/or regional) environmental experts (building partnerships), for example from local authorities or universities.

Screen planned humanitarian activities for their environmental impacts and risks – environmental and social safeguards.

Develop plans to prevent and mitigate environmental risks identified (See preparedness activity);

Aim to generate environmental benefits from your intervention – do not just limit yourself to mitigating environmental impacts. This is an opportunity to build resilience (e.g. through changes to livelihoods, use of new technologies and environmental management approaches which can contribute to peacebuilding and integration between affected populations and host communities, improved food security, risk reduction, and increased environmental stewardship through training and capacity building);

In protracted crises, making use of local capacities, increase the accountability of the response and root it in the local context. See “Accountability and Communicating with Communities” section.

Mainstream environment through each technical subsectors

Inclusion of environmental safeguards into institutional forms for project proposals (e.g. concerning project description, reporting requirements, etc.)

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Environmental sensitive project definition will look at mitigating impact or enhancing environmental benefits of the project.

MITIGATE impacts by modifying the project design, or compensating for negative impacts

The design phase is where livelihood project planners can play a critical role in addressing the potential environmental implications of livelihood project activities. The project design should reflect the information gathered during the assessment phase in terms of the number of resources that will be used to implement and maintain the livelihood activity. Formulate exit strategy as part of project design.

To mitigate look at :

· How can the direct and indirect impacts be reduced/ avoided? Understand the climatic conditions of the project area to foster adapted practices.

· Have you reviewed best practices, case studies, etc. from other organisations doing similar types of activities?

· Have you consulted with the local community/government to identify traditional and environmentally responsible solutions?

· Use secondary data such as reports on environmental determinants of health, air pollution, deforestation, water quality, waste management, mining, agricultural pests, and similar. Disaggregated data from other sources such as clinic/hospital admissions can tell you a lot about the environment and its relationship to vulnerable groups.

ENHANCE environmental benefits in the project: Aim to generate environmental benefits from your intervention – do not just limit yourself to mitigating environmental impacts. This is an opportunity to build resilience (e.g. through changes to livelihoods, use of new technologies and environmental management approaches which can contribute to peacebuilding and integration between affected populations and host communities, improved food security, risk reduction, and increased environmental stewardship through training and capacity building)

To enhance environmental benefits look at:

· After impact assessment and mitigation, what other enhancement measures can be added to the project?

· Can enhancement activities be combined with other sectors?

Develop approaches, aligned with agroecological principles, to support nutrition and sustainable diets, within the context of gender and climate impacts of production, distribution, and consumption of healthy, sustainable diets.
Promoting the use of local underutilized and neglected species high in nutritional value.

If inputs are required for the livelihoods project, such as timber for constructing markets or seed stock for agriculture, the project manager should ensure that the materials are sustainable (e.g., use sustainable timber or local noninvasive species for agriculture plants). Note: Better management practices (BMPs) are flexible, field-tested, and cost-effective techniques that protect the environment by helping to measurably reduce major impacts of growing commodities on the planet’s water, air, soil, and biological diversity. They can also help producers make a profit in an environmentally sustainable way. BMPs have been developed for a wide range of activities such as fishing, farming, and forestry.

Hereunder are some examples of environmental inclusive programmatic guidance:

· Focus on a specific territory or geographic area at the sub-national level that is prone to natural hazards and/or other threats to food and nutrition security, such as watersheds or agro-ecological zones.

· Integrated and interdisciplinary interventions that combine technologies and practices in agriculture, livestock, fisheries/aquaculture, forestry, and natural resource management for a coherent approach to building resilience across the livelihoods of smallholders.

· An ecosystem perspective to ensure the integrated management of land, water and other key resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Natural disasters and man-made conflicts responsible for the displacement of groups of populations and communities likely require a multisectoral and complex response strategy. The set up of inter-sectoral cluster leads, for example in the 2006 Indonesia earthquake, proved to be overall successful and was able to address the plethora of vulnerabilities and weaknesses faced by the local communities concerning Shelter, WASH, Protection, Nutrition, and others.

Some of the weaknesses of this approach identified by the ERP Progress Review (Clusters “State of Affairs”) Report” OCHA Yogyakarta 27 September 2006 represent learning opportunities.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

# of plans developed to mitigate environmental risks identified;

# of environmental enhancement activities included in the project

Use of environmental and social screening/safeguard tools to define Livelihood activities;

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Mitigation of environmental damage

Environmental enhancement

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Include environmental actors and community organisations with environment-related interests in planning and organisations involved in natural resource management in community consultations and focus group discussions;

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